Leading wolf researchers oppose plan to remove Endangered Species Act protections nationally
Yesterday a group of leading wolf researchers and prominent conservation biologists sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel, urging her to reconsider plans to remove Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across the remainder of the lower 48 states, except for the small and struggling population of Mexican wolves "where found" in the Southwest.
Wolves used to be found across most of the lower 48 states, but now with two populations removed from the endangered species list – one in the Midwest and one in the Rocky Mountains – the US Fish and Wildlife Service is ready to declare victory on wolf recovery in America, despite the fact that plenty of suitable habitat still exists for wolves in the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rockies and the Northeast - and, today, most of that habitat remains unoccupied by wolves.
A draft of the Service’s proposal was leaked a couple of weeks ago to the LA Times. Since then many groups, including NRDC, have urged the Obama administration to reverse course and not issue the proposed rule. Today, a core group of experts in wolf biology, genetics and conservation laid out a series of specific concerns they have with the draft proposed rule and joined the call to oppose the plan.
First, the scientists point out that the plan ignores current research that has identified a significant amount of suitable habitat where wolf populations could be restored.
The scientists then call on the Service to proceed with plans to recognize the Mexican wolf as a subspecies. However, they call on the Service to designate an area for the recovery of the species rather than merely listing them “where found.”
Third, the scientists point out that there is "not sufficient information to support recognition of a new species of wolf, C. lycaon". In fact, many of the scientists on the letter previously made this same argument to the Service and yet the draft proposed rule completely ignores their arguments.
Finally, the scientists disagree with the Service’s finding that wolves in the Pacific Northwest do not qualify as a "distinct population segment". Among other things, the letter points out that many wolves in the Pacific Northwest are genetically distinct from those in the Northern Rockies.
Taken together, the scientists’ letter shines a light on glaring flaws in the Service’s draft proposed rule that need to be addressed before any protections from wolves can be removed nationally. An AP story from late yesterday said that the Service is not issuing the rule right now due to “a recent unexpected delay.”
We hope they are considering not issuing the plan at all.
Photo credit: National Park Service